Toronto – September 19, 2014 – Canada’s most progressive union is urging the Harper government to commit to supporting safe working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment sector. UFCW Canada activists are sending letters to the government demanding action to stop another tragedy like Rana Plaza, in which 1,135 garment workers were killed and more than 2,500 were injured when their factory collapsed more than a year ago.
In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster, UFCW Canada participated in a fact-finding mission in Bangladesh. A direct result of the mission was the Sustainability Compact – an agreement which obligates the Bangladesh government to take real steps towards ensuring factory safety and protecting workers’ rights. In addition, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety requires global producers to ensure the factories they source from are safe. While more than 150 companies have signed the Accord, Loblaw’s Joe Fresh is still the only Canadian company to have signed on. Some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Target and Walmart, have refused to sign.
In an open letter on September 15, UFCW Canada joined with more than 50 organizations to request the federal government urge Canadian retailers to contribute to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund for the injured workers and families of those who were killed. The letter also calls on the government to match all corporate and individual donations. Many European nations have already agreed to match donations, as well as urging the government of Bangladesh to honour the Sustainability Compact. Harper’s government, on the other hand, is still failing on both fronts.
“With hundreds of companies signing onto the Accord and other countries realizing their responsibility to workers in Bangladesh, it is shameful that our government is not getting on board,” says Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada National President, “We cannot let another Rana Plaza happen ever again and we must demand that Harper takes action now.”